Sharon Machlis

Plug and play winner so far: Ubuntu desktop Linux

August 31, 2005 11:49 AM EDT
After playing with three more bootable Linux distros last night -- that's five so far --  only one easily found both my Internet connection and printer: Ubuntu, the version recommended by several readers. It definitely pays to listen to our readers!

Ubuntu found my Internet connection without me doing a thing; and configuring the printer was as easy as choosing "add a printer," selecting the already detected printer and then picking its manufacturer and model number from a drop-down menu. Later this week, I'm going to see how it works to transfer files off of a digital camera, another major issue for me as a home user.

I'd had high hopes for the bootable DVD version of Novell SuSE 9.3, but it ran into problems early. It looked extremely slick booting up, offering an immediate choice of regular Linux, safe mode or hard-disk boot; nice  interface, with a choice of simple or detailed view of what was happening; and elegant fonts (what can I say, that matters to me). But when it got to a certain point, the boot-up simply froze and my screen went blank. It never even got the chance to try to find my printer and Net connection!

After some preliminary research on the Web, I suspect the problem is either my monitor or video card. I was able to control-alt-backspace out of X Windows and boot up in text mode; but as an avid digital photographer, an OS that can't display graphics isn't much use to me these days, no matter how much I also enjoy having robust shell/command-line access to my system. I'll give a couple of boot-up "cheat codes" a try tonight and see if I can coax it into loading up some graphics.

I also took a stab at Slax Linux, downloading the version designed to run Windows applications with a minimum of effort (Wine comes bundled in), but that didn't seem to let me add a printer at all.

For now, I'm still running Ubuntu off the bootable CD, which is something like surfing the Web on dial-up -- possible, but with irritating delays. It's also a little scary, since I haven't tried configuring it to save anything on my hard drive, and I'm writing this now on Ubuntu at work, unable to save any of my work in progress unless I keep e-mailing drafts to myself.

And yes, I realize I'm missing out one of the probable benefits of Linux on a  PC, speedy operations by using a CD version of an OS; but I want to be sure I find the Linux version that's right for me before grappling with hard-disk installation. While I like Ubuntu, I also happen to be partial to the KDE desktop (no reason beyond personal preference), and Ubuntu is built around GNOME. But I see there's also a KDE version of Ubuntu, called Kubuntu....

Previous installments:

Linux on the desktop (cont.)
OK, I'll bite: Linux on the desktop

And a related story this week - it seems desktop Linux from bootable CD is suddenly all the rage - Try Linux for free: Make your own install CD, from our sister publication PC World.